On January 20, 2021 Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in as President and Vice President of the United States. They are being handed the reins of managing this raging virus of COVID-19. Ironically, their inauguration day is a year, to the day, from which the first case of this dreaded disease was discovered in our country. By Inauguration Day there were over 24.2 million Americans infected and 407,482 American souls lost (more than in WWII). There were a record 4,131 Americans who died from this disease on that day alone. Covid hospitalizations receded slightly to a staggering 123,820. In addition to the health consequences our economy continues to suffer demonstrated by 900,000 new jobless claims this past week. Tens of thousands of small businesses have shuttered, some permanently, since this virus came to our shores. Many of our children remain on virtual or blended school schedules. New strains of the virus, which are more contagious but not more deadly, have been discovered around the world. They have been identified in at least twenty of our states, with two different strains having been found in Ohio. The good news is that the preliminary data from researchers reveals that the Pfizer vaccine remains effective against the United Kingdom mutated strain. More analyses are being conducted regarding the other vaccines and strains.

Lastly on the news front is the slow administration of the vaccines before Inauguration Day. Approximately 54.1% of the distributed Pfizer and Moderna vaccines had been administered. Only 4.3 % (16.5 million) of the US population has been inoculated. To put this in perspective, the vaccination rate per 100 citizens is approximately seven times higher in Israel when compared to the US.

Early indications are that this new federal administration is intent upon approaching these pandemic induced challenges with eyes wide open and actions based on science and truth. A national plan for which many Americans have been clamoring was released on January 21, 2021. It can be found in its entirety online and is entitled “National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness”. The plan is organized around seven goals:
“1. Restore trust with the American people. 2. Mount a safe, effective, and comprehensive vaccination campaign. 3. Mitigate spread through expanding masking, testing, data, treatments, health care workforce, and clear public health standards. 4. Immediately expand emergency relief and exercise the Defense Production Act. 5. Safely reopen schools, businesses, and travel while protecting workers. 6. Protect those most at risk and advance equity, including across racial, ethnic, and rural/urban lines. 7. Restore U.S. leadership globally and build better preparedness for future threats.”

The President signed ten (10) Executive Orders (EO) on his first and second days in office to provide specifics for addressing these seven goals. This Administration has vowed is to get 100 million Americans vaccinated within the first 100 days of its authority. Specific measures to fulfill each one of these seven goals are contained within these EO’s as well as by the determination to be truthful, accept blame, and lead by example. One of the major pushes is mandating mask wearing on federal property and during interstate travel (planes, trains, and buses). That means “no mask, no fly”. Even the airlines are in favor of this federal mandate because it makes it easier to enforce their rules which were oftentimes the source of disregard and open conflict. Another example of EO use is that the Defense Production Act will be fully implemented to allow for better and more extensive testing, improving the supply chain for PPE and vaccines, and to ensure that vaccine production meets demand.

Optimism is high regarding this new approach that will treat this effort against COVID-19 as the WAR that it is. Things will get worse before they get better as it is projected that 539,000 American lives will be lost to Covid-19 by April 1, 2021. The success of this national plan is a partnership between the public, governments, business, and our overly stressed healthcare system. We must each still do our part. WEAR a mask (even after being vaccinated), WASH your hands, WATCH your distance, and get vaccinated when your time arrives.

Clyde E. Henderson, MD
Cincinnati Medical Association